While there, Bellevue made a run — but Turner provided the biggest shot of the night when she returned.
Turner's 3-pointer gave the Lady Red its first lead of more than one point and Bellevue held on in a tough, 52-45 non-league win over Willard on Tuesday.
"That 3 was big," Bellevue coach Kory Santoro said. "We debated putting her back in because we were playing so well with the lineup we had. We wanted her back in for rebounds and she is one of our captains and top players. She needed to be on the floor at that time. She stepped in and hit a huge shot for us."
Turner put the Lady Red (3-0) ahead, 46-43 with 2:46 left and after one of Willard's 22 turnovers, Bellevue opted to take the air out of the ball to run clock. In the end, Brynn Vogel was fouled and she made both free throws.
Mckenna Stephens answered on the other end for the Crimson Flashes with a baseline jumper, but two more free throws by Vogel and two makes by Casey Santoro sealed the win for the Lady Red.
"Brynn needed a game like this," Santoro said. "This is the type of game that we think Brynn could play all year. I see things starting to change with some of our younger girls. They are starting to believe and know they belong."
The game was a rematch of a district championship matchup from last season that Bellevue won, 49-42, en route to a regional final appearance.
"We ran out of energy," Willard coach Barry Pfahl said. "We needed to hit some free throws and some shots. We had turnovers that were uncharacteristic for us. We were not making those turnovers earlier in the game."
It was not smooth sailing for Bellevue as Willard led the entire game until midway through the fourth quarter. The Flashes used a decided height advantage to control the glass and seemingly the pace of the game.
Layla Dials hit a 3 and Cassie Crawford scored to give Willard an early 9-2 lead, prompting a timeout from Santoro. Two free throws by Stephens pushed the margin to nine points and Willard led, 11-5 after eight minutes. Bellevue made just 1 of 16 shots in the first quarter.
"We would like to get out to faster starts," Santoro said. "In our three games, we have not gotten off to the best starts."
Bellevue stayed within striking distance for most of the second quarter before Willard pushed late. Presley Feltner scored off of an offensive rebound and Dials connected on a triple at the buzzer to give the Flashes a 25-16 lead at halftime.
"The first half was a testament to our kids and the gutsy defensive attack," Pfahl said. "They get down and after you."
Stephens grabbed an offensive rebound that led to a three-point play to start the second half. Feltner added a bucket off an offensive rebound for a 30-16 advantage.
Casey Santoro connected on a 3-pointer, but the Flashes kept charging. Consecutive buckets by Crawford kept Willard ahead, 36-22 with 4:44 left in the third quarter.
"You come to Bellevue and you know right away you are going to get trapped, pressured, and they are going to speed you up a little bit," Pfahl said. "The big key is can you slow Casey Santoro down and not let Cory Santoro kill you? I thought we did a really nice job doing what we had to do on those two kids."
Turner went to the bench 40 seconds later with her fourth foul, but Bellevue took over from there. Vogel scored and added two free throws. Casey Santoro added two free throws then hit a 3 to cut the lead to 38-33. Her score got the Lady Red within a possession, but Dials scored at the buzzer to push Willard back ahead, 40-35 after three quarters.
"We kind of plugged away at it," Santoro said. "We are a team that thinks we can wear a team down with our speed. I think we have nice team speed. The girls can get after it and play defense the full length of the court. I think that is what happened tonight."
A bucket by Vogel was followed by back-to-back tallies from Emma Bollinger — her only four points of the night — on offensive rebounds for a 43-42 lead with 4:36 left.
"I think by the middle of the third quarter, I saw girls hanging on their shorts and I knew Willard was tired," Santoro said. "I saw that and I thought we might have a chance."
Crawford paced Willard with 16 points while grabbing seven rebounds. Stephens added 11 points and seven rebounds, Dials contributed eight points and 13 rebounds, and Feltner had eight points and 11 rebounds.
"Gabby Turner hit a big 3 and Brynn Vogel drives and goes to the line," Pfahl said. "It is those kids that step up when you are containing the Santoro sisters. They give you problems."
Casey Santoro led Bellevue with 17 points while Cory Santoro registered 15 points and seven rebounds. Vogel scored 10 points.
"We had to be more physical and box out," Santoro said. "I thought we defended the post a lot better in the second half."
Willard outrebounded the Lady Red, 43-27.
Layla Dials 3-0—8, Mckenna Stephens 4-3—11, Cassie Crawford 8-0—16, Presley Feltner 4-0—8, Becca Slone 0-1—1, Syana Sivonsak 0-1—1. TOTALS 19-5—45.
Cory Santoro 5-2—15, Gabrielle Turner 2-1—6, Brynn Vogel 2-6—10, Casey Santoro 5-5—17, Emma Bollinger 2-0—4. TOTALS 16-14—52.
Willard 11 14 15 5 — 45
Bellevue 5 11 19 17 — 52
3-point FGs: (W) Dials 2; (B) Co. Santoro 3, Ca. Santoro 2, Turner